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KMOV: St. Louis County officials begin vaccine outreach in under-served communities

St. Louis County officials begin vaccine outreach in under-served communities

Emma Hogg, January 25, 2021

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Analysis from the Centers for Disease Control released over the weekend showed just four percent of Missourians have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, putting the Show Me State 50th in the country in terms of distribution. The situation isn't much better in Illinois, where just 4.4 percent of the state has received their first shot, which is 45th in the U.S..

Health officials are concerned it will be difficult to improve those numbers if some of the most vulnerable in the region don't have the means to get a vaccine. In an effort to improve access to those most at-risk, a team of about 12 people are working to inform and educate residents in under-served areas; focusing their efforts in north St. Louis County.

Like many seniors, 72-year-old Paula Goerss said she's only left home for church or the grocery store. The north county resident said she's pre-registered on the St. Louis County Health Department's website to get the vaccine, but like millions of other Missourians, she's at the mercy of supply and demand.

"I am waiting to hear and I know that hinges on whether or not they get the vaccine," she said. "I'm pretty amazed every morning when I wake up. I say I'm not sure why I'm still here, why I haven't had [COVID]."

But health department maps show a number of north county residents are still not pre-registered with the health department, a discrepancy local leaders say is likely due to a lack of information about the vaccine. Damon Broadus, the new director of health promotion, is tasked with leading an outreach team of about a dozen people to target the north county area. The group is utilizing online campaigns, community partnerships, flyers and door knocking to inform people in underserved and under-represented communities within north county about the vaccine and where to get it when the time comes.

"We all need to operate with a sense of urgency of now," he said. "We need to build trust, we need to build credibility- not only about the vaccine but about our partnership and why it's important to the community."

News 4 learned the first mass vaccine site in north county, established by the health department, will have its own Metro bus stop and is serviced by four bus lines. The county said it will provide transportation for those unable to get to a bus stop. They'll also mobilize teams to administer shots to the homebound.

"Those disparities have caused tragedy for too long," Broadus said. "So we want to look at the poverty and injustice as ways to overcome those vulnerable communities."

The outreach team has begun many of their efforts already, and county leaders say residents can expect to see online campaigns and flyers rolling out soon. The exact location of that first mass vaccine site is expected to be released sometime this week.

Health experts are also doing outreach, hoping to calm general fears about COVID-19 vaccines. A chief concern among many in the community is the fact the vaccines were created so quickly.

Rachel presti, wash-u infectious diseases physician

"Hundreds of companies were developing the vaccine. Universities and pharmaceutical companies," said Dr. Rachel Presti an infectious diseases physician with Washington University. "And we got lucky with the rna vaccine because people had been working on that for 10 years. So even though it's a new kind of vaccine, it was something people were already working on and were ready to go."

Dr. Presti addeed the vaccines were created quickly because of the urgent need spurred by a worldwide pandemic.

P.O. Box 410091
Saint Louis, MO 63141
Paid for by Page for Missouri, Sue Felling, Treasurer

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